Hey Jacksonville, time for a little pillow talk!
Sorry for the pun, but I couldn’t resist. But here is a serious question for you: when was the last time you thought about the pillow you lay your head on at night? You should, because it can impact you more than you might think!
First of all, a comfortable pillow can make it that much easier to get a good night’s sleep. But even more importantly, it can help protect pain in your head, you neck, your shoulders, your hips and other problem areas. If you suffer from chronic pain in your joints, I recommend that you take a good hard look at that soft pillow!
Generally speaking, a good pillow should provide support to your muscles with support and keep your upper body in alignment. Your head should be aligned with the spine and curved forward slightly, just as it would be in a healthy resting position if you were awake. If your pillow is too high or too flat it keeps your neck out of alignment while you are sleeping. This causes muscle strain through your shoulders and cervical spine. Studies show that good pillows support the head at about 4-6” off the bed (this means you’ll want to change your pillow regularly, as pillows flatten out over time).
There isn’t one perfect pillow. Everybody will find different pillows that work best for them. Choosing the right pillow depends on a lot of factors. Your personal comfort level is the first! But another big factor is what position you sleep in.
When you are lying on your side, your pillow should support your head so that your spinal column is a straight horizontal line. Because your head is heavy, you will want a firm pillow that gives it lots of support. Studies show that you should probably avoid feather pillows, since they compress the most. Use a soft pillow and you will feel it in your cervical spine the next day!
I want to note that if you are a side-sleeper, it’s important that you also put a pillow between your legs. This will keep your hips from rotating while you sleep, pulling your spine out of alignment.
The spine is naturally curved, so if you sleep in this position it is key to support your head and neck! When you’re standing with a correct, neutral posture, your neck has a curve and your head is slightly forward. You want a pillow that maintains this same posture when you are sleeping. Back sleepers don’t need as firm pillows as side sleepers do.
You may find that putting a second pillow under your knees helps alleviate back pain while you are sleeping in this position.
As a chiropractor, I really wish that no one slept on their front side! Unfortunately, some of us are accustomed to it. When you sleep like this, you have to turn your face to the side in order to breathe. This means your head and neck are twisted way out of alignment the whole night through, forcing your muscles to compensate.
If you are going to sleep like this, you want a very flat pillow under your head. You might even just sleep flat on the mattress. Placing a pillow underneath your pelvis can help your lower back. But to be honest, if it is even remotely possible, I recommend trying to switch to a side or back sleeping position. Sure, you’ll have a few sleepless nights. But you might just save yourself some major back and neck pain down the road!
Do you switch it up during the night? Don’t worry, there are pillows for you too! You can find pillows that have higher areas for side sleeping and lower areas for back sleeping. Give it a shot!
Types of pillows
There are so many pillows out there these days! Orthopedic pillows offer extra head support and are contoured to fit the curve of your neck. If you have cervical neck problems and are a back sleeper, this is a great solution. Some side-sleepers enjoy using body pillows, as one pillow can support their head and fit between their legs.
Your standard pillow is still an excellent choice, too. Standard pillows come with a number of different fillings to choose from including:
· Down or down-alternative
· Memory foam
· Buckwheat hulls
The last option, Buckwheat hulls, is becoming popular among those with degenerative disc diseases and other severe spine problems.
But only you can decide what pillow feels truly comfortable and supportive. I’d recommend trying a few different types of pillows. You never know, you may come across something that gives that old pillow you’ve been using for years a run for its money! Wouldn’t it be worth it for a good night’s sleep?
At Active Medical and Chiropractic we have a selection of specialized pillows that you might find helpful if your current pillow isn’t giving you the support you need. Ask us about it on your next visit!
Yours in health,
Christopher B. Renne, D.C.
4111 Atlantic Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL 32207